Tuesday, November 27, 2007

2007 Top Ten!

Technically, the year isn't over yet. But this is the point where the record industry pretty much stops putting out records, excepting things that are easy sells as Christmas gifts. Someone- John Darnielle?- Postulated that every record released after the last week in November is made by Queen. There's also the new Wu-Tang, Ghostface, and maybe the new Nas record with the controversial title. Feel free to post it in the comments thread. With an exclamation point. Just make it seem like it's directed at me. I didn't hear enough rap records this year.

This is really just an excuse to talk about music, the way we relate to music, etc. Oh, and to give you points of comparison when actual influential music magazines and websites start posting stuff. There are certainly things that came out this year that I haven't heard yet that I might really like. But it's either a top ten post or just a random post about that new Magik Markers record.

Without further hullaballoo:
1. Panda Bear - Person Pitch
2. Dan Deacon - Spiderman Of The Rings

I'm not sure I like that order, actually. I feel like Person Pitch is the more obvious choice, which is why it's at number one. It's the more "mature" album, even though the lyrics are super-simplistic and positive. Dan Deacon tells people at shows to imagine they're in their childhood den having a pizza party: His music is actually consciously childlike. Because of that, there's still more teenage energy. In some ways, they're the same record. The Dan Deacon record is overstuffed, bursting at the seams with so much energy. Woooody Woodpecker beats Comfy In Nautica as an opener, but Bros beats out Wham City as a third track epic.

I kind of want to give it to Dan Deacon, actually. This is due in one part to my contrarian streak- I think in 2004 my stance for awhile was that Girl Talk's Unstoppable was the album of the year, rather than Animal Collective's Sung Tongs- and kind of a tribute to the kind of year I had. Not the entirety of the year, but the fun part, the first half, was pretty Dan Deacon-ish. The fact that it's a record people might be writing off as a novelty record makes me even more behind it. Also, I used "Big Milk" in a movie I made. I don't know, last year I said the best album of the year was Paper Rad's Trash Talking DVD. These are my biases: Nerds rummaging through the cultural garbage, making jokes all the while, and somehow ending up with something moving.

The best thing I read about Person Pitch this year was on Stylus's top fifty list blurb.

But yes, switch those, actually, to note my contrarianism.

3. Marnie Stern - In Advance Of The Broken Arm

When Marnie Stern came to town, she ended up opening for BARR, which threw me for a loop I didn't expect. I told people to come and ended up in the restaurant talking while she played at the back of the bar. I'd only heard a chunk of her album then, a few mp3s, and wasn't even sold enough to buy a copy off her- I figured the show would kick my ass and convince me if the record was worth a purchase or not, but then I didn't hear the songs. Hey everybody, I'm an idiot.

But let's move past that, because these songs are amazing. The most recent time, I was actually listening for rhythms, moments where the drums and the riffs actually synch up to achieve what is normally associated with rock music. It didn't happen so much. Everything is falling down the stairs, or flying around your head. It's all over the place. It's got tornado powers, summoning the wind. It's all achieved through labor. Marnie Stern plays the shit out of the guitar, all cooped up in her room. Totally committed to the music. All of the songs are about art making, specifically, the putting a lot of work into such things. "My fingers burn, the skin is peeling off. This is my Thunder Road, this is my Marquee Moon, this is my Orthrelm In Tune, this is my love for you." That is a lyric that will die on the fucking screen, but ohhhhh dude. "Thunder Road" sounds like "Thought For Food," The Books record. Anthems for art-making: "I've been off the radar way too long!" "I'm almost an island, but not quite yet." The whole album is named after a DuChamp piece. Oh, and after a shitload of pop songs played from a whirlwind, the last track utilizes these spoken-word/performance elements that just nail me right where I stand: "I will paint you a picture that's inside my head, but first I must carve out a place." Sweet jesus. I think that Marnie Stern could make another record, not about art-making, and it might be able to actually communicate its depth to a larger group of people. I made some movies this year, and listened to a lot of Marnie Stern. I'm not really making anything anymore, but songs like "Put All Your Eggs In One Basket and Then Watch That Basket!!" are still totally awesome even when the title isn't the slogan you're living your life by.

4. Electrelane - No Shouts, No Calls

Most of the songs kind of blur in my head. Krautrock rhythms, with girls singing. It's just a great aesthetic. I remember writing, in an e-mail to someone, that I wanted to make a movie with the tone of this record. Looking back on it now, it's kind of vague what I meant. To take a guess, I imagine I'll mean the rhythm of it, the kind of cool yet danceable beat, vaguely detached, but in a dreamy way, but with this undercurrent overtone of actual human emotion and longing. This was in the springtime that I wrote this, this is a springtime record. Flowers blooming, skin showing, wind blowing. I guess this band is now broken up a little. This is them nailing an aesthetic, after some instrumental records that weren't so good, really kicking ass on pop songs.

(I think they had a record with vocals, all sung in French, which is lame in as much as I don't think French is their native language, so it's vaguely an affectation. The straightforwardness is what I'm responding to here.) It's not a perfect album, it's just a really great aesthetic- Which, by the way, is what I think is going to define the music of the decade: The most exciting bands to me aren't the ones doing the best songs, but they're the ones putting on the best live shows. This would be bands like Lightning Bolt and Deerhoof, "favorite bands" whose albums aren't going to be the favorite of the year, due to something about them that makes their work all blur together. Maybe I just think of those as favorite bands because I am seeing bands live now, as opposed to the bands that existed during the nineties, when I was younger. Wow, that's a hell of digression. Especially since that record with vocals, The Power Out, I only heard once, at a party, and I mostly just remember liking it.)

5. Boris With Michio Kurihara- Rainbow

Wow, Boris were really great when I saw them live. I don't know. This record's really good. I listened to it a lot, especially towards the beginning of the year, when I first became aware of its existence. I like the way the guitar solos just kind of split through the songs like lightning. I like that it's metal largely in the ridiculousness of the vocal performance. I think it's a lot better than last year's Pink, because it's not so monolithic/monochromatic.

6. Magik Markers - Boss

I saw Magik Markers wrap up their set opening for Sonic Youth in 2005. I think they sucked at the time. I remember Elisa yelling at the crowd "fucking do something!" shortly after I'd walked in. This is their first "actual" record, after a bunch of CD-Rs and assorted Bull-Tongue-submitted detritus, with "actual" songs, and being recorded in a studio, and... I like it a lot. The thing thrown at noise musicians- that anyone can do it- isn't necessarily untrue. This album has actual songs, but still is kind of "anyone can do it." But the only other people I can think of who actually did it is Sonic Youth on Confusion Is Sex. Songs are moods, fast or slow, different effects pedals, different vocal melodies or approaches, and they switch up, and they're well-recorded and then well-chosen for their order: Alternate rockers with ballads, determined by how fast the instrumentalists are moving their hands. The justification I read for them making this record was their realization that they could do better songs than other people. They were right. Anyone could make this record with the right point of view, the same point of view that leads to confrontational noise shows and the realization that you're smarter than other people. This is better than that Thurston Moore solo record, which was in turn better than any Sonic Youth record since Murray Street. Killing your idols is fun, and made easy when they decide to record your album and then release it.

7. Liars - Liars

This could probably beat out the last two records. Not unlike Magik Markers, this is a band tightening up to make pop songs, only they were already further along than the provocation of noise shows. I like the fact that Plaster Casts Of Everything starts out kind of bad and then transcends itself. I like that Houseclouds sounds like early nineties Britpop, specifically Blur. I like that the third song then sounds like They Were Wrong So We Drowned b-sides, only not shitty. I like that when it comes into focus again it sounds like Jesus And Mary Chain. I like that my friend Alex tried to get my friend Evan to listen to it by saying it sounded like sixties garage rock, and then when I asked him about it later he admitted he was basically lying. It sounds like sixties garage rock only in relation to the rest of the Liars catalog, and that if you had synaesthesia its colors would be red with purple flashes like The Creation once claimed to be. But maybe I only think that because those are the colors of the cover to Strawberry Jam, which this is better than.

8. Wooden Wand - James And The Quiet

The cover of this album is a photo taken at a friend's house in Olympia, at a show I was at. This wouldn't be worth mentioning if this weren't a folk record. Because it's a folk record, it seems strangely appropriate. It's the best "straightforward" Wooden Wand album so far, whereas The Flood was their best jammy record. I listened to this a lot. I don't know what to say about it, besides what I wrote about it a few months ago. The runner-up folk record would be the Nina Nastasia/Jim White collaboration.

9. Eric Copeland - Hermaphrodite

Some might like the Black Dice singles compilation more. This is another record I wrote about, if I recall. I've been talking about it to people, I know. Insisting that it was the noise record of the year, and then telling someone that even though the album art might be creepy, the actual vibe of the record is sunshiney. It brings to mind world music, and walking the streets of unfamiliar foreign lands. The live show, with its ridiculous live volume, still had rhythms, although I don't think anyone in the audience was interested in hearing them: The high volume and the setting sort of stripped the sunshine away. Still, it recast this music in a different context, and it was amazing. The runner-up noise record would be Black Dice's Load Blown, yes.

10. Menomena- Friend And Foe.

This could be switched out for Strawberry Jam, certainly. I liked it a lot when I first heard it, and then I found out that what I had downloaded was not the actual tracklist, and that the actual tracklist doesn't flow as well. I also found out that the tracklist I was listening to had a track missing that I didn't add into iTunes. That song's not bad. None of these songs are bad. Another record I already talked about when I first heard it.

No runners-up! I've been writing about music all year, and don't need to list the things I liked again.

Friday, November 23, 2007

1-800-Mice is a great name for a comic book. Just say it out loud if you have doubts. In terms of crafting prose that rolls off the tongue, a comic pretty much just needs to nail it with the title. With movies and TV, dialogue needs to ring true, books and poetry might be read aloud. A comic just needs to have its voice captured in the form of brand recognition, especially with these one-person doing whatever the hell they feel like comics. "Love And Rockets" is a pretty good example. When I saw the title 1-800-Mice for the first time, I got all excited. I walked around with it in my head like a pop song's chorus for a day or two.

The comic itself is pretty good, which is why I'm writing about the title now, rather than when I first came to know it. It's a good name for a Matthew Thurber comic, specifically, because it seems like a non sequitur. It wouldn't actually work as a phone number. The first time I read one of his comics, I was half-distracted by trying to have a conversation or something, and couldn't really follow it. The prose- the dialogue/captions, that which is not drawing- is really distinct, it has these odd rhythms, and the stories themselves have the same rhythms. It seems like nonsense, because it will take these sideways detours. But it's not a Marc Bell comic, where the nonsensical dialogue is just this weird act of self-negation and deterrence: It actually builds and goes places. "1-800-Mice" actually ends up being a plot point. It's the name of a company that uses mice as couriers for messengers to parts of the world unable to be reached by cell phones. Which is, maybe, the plot point on which the whole world turns, thematically.

Because detectable within Thurber's comic is this anxiety about the modern world of cell phones. I'll cite examples of dialogue like "I spent too much time on the internet today. It's fucking up my DNA." "I hear that man... but how do we get out of the way... of waves?" and bits from thought balloons like "recurring nightmares of population density, a poisoned ipod or a generation lost to a suicide faddishness." And I think part of this is why anthropomorphic characters are being utilized. Thurber reviewed a Leif Goldberg zine where that sort of technique was admired for how it "helps level the playing field between humans and the Earth." There's an interview with Thurber in the same magazine as that review, as well as a comic involving humans turning into lizards. There's this weird natural world bubbling up through a cartoon world, which is one of those things that seems counter-intuitive, but actually makes perfect sense to me, in a way that's hard to articulate in the form of criticism.

It's because of this that I got obsessed with 1-800-Mice, with it really bothering me that there was a long period of time when a second issue was out and unavailable to me. Even though, after reading the first issue at the same time as another Thurber comic, the newspaper Carrot For Girls, I thought the latter was better, even though it's kind of not that great. I finally got issue two not too long ago, and that comic really was great.

The same magazine that hosted Thurber reviewing a Leif Goldberg zine had an interview with Thurber himself, that ended with him saying that he wanted to "figure out how to write funnier comics, more interesting comics, more readable stuff." It turns out when reading issue two that the key to making funnier comics is to make them more readable as comics, actually utilizing the panel-to-panel rhythms that have traditionally worked in comics rather than having apeshit layouts that are closer to psychedelic posters with a lot of text on them. Pretty much everything before that first issue had sequences that were largely unparseable on a first read. Here, the nonsensical weirdness just works as jokes, rather than artiness, but it doesn't detract from what makes Thurber interesting at all.

I attribute this shift to the publication of Art Out Of Time, edited by the publisher of 1-800-Mice, Dan Nadel. Art Out Of Time is a collection of old comics, drawn by people who were weirdos enough to have a distinct vision, and presented in a context that highlights that what these were distinct artists, and not just hacks, even though they were hacking out the pages at the time. Everything I've seen Thurber cite as an influence is kind of esoteric- the music of Caroliner, The Sun City Girls, and Captain Beefheart, the comic-zines silkscreen printed in the underground. Art Out Of Time presents stuff that works and tells straightforward narratives, originally for kids largely, and points out that it glows with weirdness anyway. It's like pointing out that the beat for an Usher song sounds like Black Dice to someone who really likes Black Dice, this kind of "wait, what" epiphany that leads to clarity because you understand how to channel idiosyncracy in a way that's clear.

So, suddenly, for an issue at least, (and I'm very much anticipating issue 3, which should be coming out imminently) Thurber's comics read all that much easier. What's weird is that, to me, they kind of felt like funny animal comics already. Kind of like how the Grant Morrison Doom Patrol comics that remain an all-time favorite channel silver-age superhero stuff that was already kind of weird because people were working at high enough speeds that unconscious anxieties spilled out and turn up that weirdness by utilizing a conscious awareness of a history of surrealist artwork. Only for "The Fox And The Crow" or something. Now, it's really been nailed, and the comic reads like Boody Rogers adapting fragments of an unpublished Thomas Pynchon novel. (Other Art Out Of Time reference points would be the nervousness of Rory Hayes, with the frozenness of Ogden Whitney surfacing on the page where Groomfiend is receiving a message from a coffee cup.) I cite Pynchon not just because I like him, but due to the size of the ensembles he works with, and the proclivity towards "funny" names that was in itself probably inspired by cartoons. (Oh, also the weird sexual practices: In issue two a cop fucks a duck! But not in the tawdry way that you'd see in a sixties underground comic, but in the weird and casual way it would happen in Gravity's Rainbow.) But I do really like Thomas Pynchon, and part of the reason I think that's a fair comparison point is because 1-800-Mice rules.

And while that's an obvious ending to an essay, I realize that I didn't get into, really, the way that sometimes out-of-nowhere, right after a tangent, there'll be occasional moments of straightforward emotional truth. Like, the "Megabat" page in issue 1: In itself, it's a complete detour from the rest of the comic, and then towards the end, there's a two-panel detour. And then, at the end: "I need to move," which, due to the context in which it appears and the way its drawn, I now think about everytime I think about how I need to move. That the context is pretty much completely fantastical makes it even more of an achievement. Or two panels on the page that wraps up that issue. It's the same improvisational methods that are so all over the place that enable the comic to be funny, when it is funny, are the same things that enable the emotional bits to come out of nowhere and be all the more resonant for it.

Oh oh: The ad copy for it, that appeared in issues of Cold Heat and probably nowhere else, "Like Maus without the holocaust" is completely hilarious and really should be thrown around more.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The thing that makes Guy Maddin movies work when they should be horrendous is that they aren't that tied up to the source material they're referencing. Brand Upon The Brain has this crazy frenetic editing that would never be in a silent film. It's powered by the digital editing software of today, but restrained by the idea of the serials he's referencing that it doesn't go off the rails into Tony-Scott-ville.

I didn't see it with the live narration, orchestra and foley artists of its touring iteration. I saw it projected on film, and then learned that the touring show was projected digitally: The live narration utilizes a teleprompter and a synched-up digital signal. The point is that this vision that critics take of Maddin as this nostalgist is an impossible mistruth.

Brand Upon The Brain is great. The Saddest Music In The World is maybe tedious, and some of his shorts might peter out and just feel like a stylistic exercise. This film, on the other hand- Sure, the framing sequence is easily forgettable, and the actual meat of the film might not have much of a climax, but the majority of the film is more persistently entertaining/interesting than any other indie film I've seen so far this year. It's one of those great examples of actual experimental work, in a narrative context, creating this thrilling sense of something happening that's more entertaining and direct than anything that consciously avoids anything too obviously formal for fear it might be distancing.

This isn't to say that the weird frenetic editing isn't overdone. (An effect used frequently was created by running a mouse back and forth on Final Cut through a series of shots, while recording it and then editing that back into it later.) This is supposed to cite that what is happening is the narrator's memories, as outlined in the framing sequence, but still that framing sequence is easily forgotten. It is overdone, but it's awesome, completely in keeping with the melodramatic narration, and the way in which the narrative piles its elements on.

Hell of a thing!
Sunday's episode of The Simpsons, guest-starring Jack Black and some comics people, was a weird experience. I guess almost every time I see a new episode of The Simpsons, it's weird and discomfort-inducing for a moment or two. It's still on the air, it really shouldn't be, and no one knows what to do with it. Occasionally, a joke will be really mean- I remember a "Bart torturing Skinner" sequence that seemed completely unacceptable to me. Generally, the vibe is that it's trying to be Family Guy- a show that I would assume everyone who wrote for The Simpsons would feel superior to. I just feel bad for large segments of people when I see an episode.

My theory as to why that show is still on the air is because Matt Groening is too much of a good liberal to lay off nice, funny people from what is probably the best job they will ever have.

Anyway, the last episode didn't have moments that were like that. It just had a bunch of jokes that were so nerdy and inside that I can't imagine normal people would get them. And they weren't delivered casually- They happened one after the other. Just relentless nerdiness.

There was this animated Tintin sequence, which I'm not even sure constitutes a parody or a joke. Because I've never read Tintin. If you have, and can explain if that was a joke, and how it was a joke, I would like to hear it. I get the impression things don't explode that much in Tintin.

I imagine that the general public was as dumbfounded and bored during the whole subplot as I was during that scene. Even the stuff that I understood made me vaguely uncomfortable- the bit where Lisa tells Dan Clowes how much she related to Ghost World? Yeah, that bothered me.

Still, I laughed at a lot of the nerdy shit, and in a way where I was really glad there was no one around to not laugh at that shit with me in the same room. I was really thrown by its existence, but that made me laugh, when I did laugh, all the harder: It felt like inside jokes being done on this grand scale that had to be alienating most people.

Or maybe no one watches The Simpsons these days.

I also laughed later on, at the sight gag of Homer with his stomach stapled, and then later on, post plastic surgery. Oh, and the "Count back from ten" "Okay, I admit it, I'm drunk" exchange.

During the subplot that was all nerd shit, all the time, the only joke that wasn't just an obscure reference was Jack Black's girlfriend saying the line "My name is Strawberry, and I have a lunchbox for a purse," which is hysterical to me. Way funnier than Alan Moore complaining about corporate behemoth employers mistreat his work. For the people reading this blog who might need that joke explained to them: That's what he does in real life! All the time! Not really a well-observed joke about certain types of people like the thing about the lunchbox purse is, no.

The last episode I remember seeing and thinking was okay was later highlighted by a blogger for The Onion AV Club as being written by the guy who did My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and having similar undercurrents of casual misogyny. That episode was good enough to have come from a season where The Simpsons was just starting to go bad.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

When people talk about hip-hop/pop producers, Rich Harrison is underrated for weirdness. In addition to that Amerie song I really like, (actually, a lot of them are pretty good, and he does all those beats) he also did this new Usher song, "Dat Girl Right There," which I just heard, and is fucking crazy. I haven't heard about him listening to Black Dice, which Timbaland apparently does, but that really shouldn't matter- This song is way weirder than any Timbaland song I can name. Any contenders I am forgetting should be posted in the comments.

I wish either of those dudes would produce an Enon record. The new Enon is terrible for its generic rock and rolling- People saying it is the closest to Brainiac than any Enon record need to listen to Electro-Shock For President again. That record rules: It's weird dark minimal atmospheres (in a way kind of comparable to the last Kites record, actually) with just the slimmest bit of song structure for the vocals to freak out over. Seemingly when critics are comparing Grass Geysers... Carbon Clouds to Brainiac they are just referring to the points off Hissing Prigs In Static Couture that didn't age so well, which is just a handful of choruses where the vocals are mixed in a very 1990s alt-rock way. I am probably thinking of Veruca Salt as a comparison point. That didn't fuck up those songs, really, they're just the lamest part of an awesome band. (Or Smack Bunny Baby isn't so good, either, but that was before John Schmersal joined, so it probably doesn't count.) For Enon records, I guess I would put Lost Marbles and Exploded Evidence just behind Believo!

But yeah, that Usher song: Fucking crazy! That Amerie song: Pretty fucking good!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

CF makes noise music and draws comics. Somehow, I've earned a reputation for liking noise music, when I pretty much just like Black Dice, and Black Dice side projects. And not even every Black Dice side project- The collaboration of Eric Copeland with Avey Tare, Terrestrial Tones, is not to be found on my computer, even though Alex owned a copy of Dead Drunk that I remember having some moments. Actually, maybe I should look into that. But anyway. CF makes noise music under the name of Kites, whose record Peace Trials I've talked about liking in the past. That one goes back and forth between brutal noise jams and folk songs, and the jams get more abstract and brutal as the songs become prettier, as the record goes on. I never would have downloaded that were it not for my affection for the guy's comics, as they've appeared in various anthologies. I can connect those folk songs to the drawing styles, almost. There's a warmth, and a simplicity: CF draws in a thin pencil line, occasionally embellished with watercolor paint.

Anyway, CF's put out a "graphic novel," his first after a bunch of short stories and minicomics and drawings. It's called Powr Mastrs, it's completely awesome, and none of the reviews I've read of it have articulated why. He also put out another record on Load pretty recently, which I'm listening to now, hoping to talk about.

For once, the weird hyperbole/nonsensical assertions that is noise discussion's stock in trade is accurate: The Load website describes this record as cold. Yes. There are human voices on this record, but they're not in syncopation with the instruments. Noise machines go fuckity-buzz-beep-bomp-skronk, while the human voice does spoken word: "Lady! No one's going to look at you that way! Put your compact away!" and sometimes get chewed up in the machines themselves. But Load also does the weird bullshit for a record for the comic, Powr Mastrs, and it's not even worth talking about.

Powr Mastrs is great, despite the lack of the watercolor paints that are sometimes a huge art strength, that make CF's stuff look like Henry Darger. Without it, the art sometimes gets into Charles Schulz territory, in terms of sideways figure drawing. There's also this weird geometric technical drawing aspect to the architecture, and the angles things are chosen to be depicted from. There's also these drawings of plants and animals which are really great, and where the drawings shine most obviously in terms of what's considered good drawing. The coolest elements of the drawing lie somewhere in between though, when figures get distorted of abstractions as their bodies pull apart. This happens in a lot of CF's comics: Some sort of hydrocephalic hallucination of power ripping things apart from the way they normally lie. More of a vision than a hallucination, actually, because the way the figures and the architecture look, so thin-lined in pencil, there's a sort of squareness that is different than what you'd see in, say, a Brendan McCarthy comic, which for the sake of the argument will serve as shorthand for psychedelia in the traditional "taking some mushrooms and throwing down the paint" sense. That stuff is muddier, this is more clear. The crazy distortions keep the geometric clarity of seeming drawn with s-curves and t-squares. It's awesome.

The noise isn't like that at all. It's, you know, noisy, against that sort of recognizability. Brian Chippendale travels in the same circles as CF. His comics keep the visual noise of crazy cross-hatching, and in Ninja it was made clear that that was deliberate. The panels that didn't have that, that were clean, were thought of as being bleached, gentrified for yuppies. The insane sketchiness was to reinforce a vision of a world that was more like Fort Thunder and less like a condo. Noise as something exclusionary, but also celebratory of vitality. CF's comics have a particular style, but it's not really of a piece with his music the way that Chippendale's work is.

CF's comic in Kramers Ergot 5, which he did the covers for, was signed "Fuck all you careerists and fuck the president," and in Powr Mastrs there's a note on the table of contents that says "law stay away." Tom Spurgeon has described CF's comics as being dissimilar to a sort of fantasy story about good triumphing over evil and more about weird social interactions that might be kind of unfair. What I like about this stuff is the way that sort of punk human personality elements are reflected in world-building and good stories, that sort of attribution of the transference of ideas from one consciousness to another. That's why I want to connect the comics to the noise- they come from the same person, and thus, theoretically, the same place, and in an effective piece of art, I tend to think the artist's vision is communicated. The noise only does that in terms of scene signifier: something so abrasive that it can only exist in certain contexts, and those contexts, due to their extremism, can have these lawless overtones: Shows held in houses, usually with fridges full of dumpstered food and drugs readily available. There's a whole set of associations. In Powr Mastrs, there's a "transmutation night" for witches off in the distance for lawless fun. There's also "beard parties," where immortal children pretend to be old.

In a lot of CF's short comics, there's this kind of transcendence, also, that comes from not being all that into conflict: "Race From Dying" from the SPX 2001 anthology had a dude opting out of work by drawing lines and patterns he could disappear into. The 2-page story in Paper Rad's BJ and Da Dogs had a character that took lack of conflict for granted in favor of making friends, kind of as a punchline. There's some kind of zen peacefulness that just sort of comes up. This is also vaguely evident in the folk songs from "Peace Trials" which hint at extollations of peace. Powr Mastrs doesn't have that, but it's not over yet, it has a while yet to go. So far it's just laying out the world of social relationships, which will maybe end up transcended in the future. But without that element- that "the point" element, the third-act conclusion that enforces the themes, there's still a lot to like. One element is the drawing, which is hard to articulate the strengths of, besides just saying that it's graceful. There's also the humor, and the world being built as an interesting one in itself, of just a world inside an artist's head.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The other night, I watched Elia Kazan's A Face In The Crowd. I liked it, but realized that it would probably blur in my memory very quickly with Billy Wilder's Ace In The Hole. Mostly, the two movies just share a tone.

Face In The Crowd
is interesting for the way in which it depicts the idea of a down-home, folksy country musician as supporting conservative politics- made in an era in which conservative politics were unpopular. It was made in 1957, which while it might not seem like the most liberal of times now, it's still worth noting Eisenhower saying that if a president ever tried to abolish social security, every liberal in the country, including him, would rise up. The far-right politician in this film is someone who supports the abolition of social security, and is also described as "the last of the isolationists." What a weird little time capsule.

Ace In The Hole was made in 1951. It stars Kirk Douglas, as a journalist who manufactures spectacle to make a name for himself. It's simultaneously funnier and more of a tragedy than Face In The Crowd, but Face In The Crowd, being made in 1957 has a crazy little proto-film-psychedelia scene of over-editing that I find really endearing.

They are almost the same movie, some sort of flipside to each other. Both are about the way the media chews people out and spits them up, and there's some corrupting process along the way. Ace In The Hole is about a reporter manufacturing a story where there is none, with tragic results. A Face In The Crowd is about the subject being chosen and inflated in a way beyond his control. It's more sprawling- it takes place over a longer period of time, and is about a person becoming a celebrity and becoming corrupted, but there are weird brief looks into his foundational psychology.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A few nights ago, I was sick with a fever. It was pretty debilitating, leaving me unable to sit up or accomplish tasks, even basic ones like eating. I called in sick. The next day I woke up, feeling better, getting better throughout the day, after probably a little less than 14 hours of sleep. I was confident that when I awoke the next day, Tuesday, I'd be aces. I ended up sleeping more than I expected to, and feeling pretty awful, but different symptoms than I had at the first onset of sickness. I apparently look and sound terrible- I just heard myself talk, and it was not pleasant. I'm mostly worried about an ear infection- it's one part thing that is mostly gotten by three years old to one part the idea of an eardrum rupturing.

The word that I heard about how to avoid these first came to me by way of a story of things gone awry. A friend of mine had put minced garlic in her ears, and then freaked out and pushed it down to the point where it got stuck and she had to go to the emergency room. As I recalled this to an acquaintance who works at the school medical center, she expressed terror. If her ear drum had burst with the garlic inside, what is probably the worst pain ever would have had still more burning compounded on top of that. I then talked to someone else, a woman who is knocked up, and thus soon to be a mother, who vouched for the garlic method, although admitted beforehand that it seemed hippy-dippy, but also explained how the person who had it go awry did it wrong. She also advocated other things, like wearing earmuffs and washing your ears out with hydrogen peroxide before sleep. Anyway. I tried the garlic thing, it was pleasant to do. I will keep at it, I suppose. Looking up medicinal uses of garlic online finds things that seem legit, although some of them are more involved than I am willing to attempt for something that still gives off strong stenches of hippie vibes.

EDIT: and now I'm crying!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

So, the Halloweeen party. I spent a lot of time making the costume, which still wasn't done in time. That was to be a jellyfish costume, made out of grocery bags. It just ended up looking like garbage. Anyway. The party was held at my house, and at the end of the night a girl, a friend of a friend, was drunk enough to find me attractive. So drunk, actually, that I could not in good conscience be okay with this. My roommates looked on, probably wondering whether or not I was a scumbag, as I resolutely did not move my face the forty-five degrees needed to make out, and instead stared straight ahead, trying to communicate telepathically "oh my god everybody I am fucking overwhelmed, but I swear that I am not a rapist." I need to wake up in a few hours to escort this girl, sleeping on a mattress in the living room, to the Greyhound station, when probably she will not remember anything. I will also make eggs to cure what is sure to be an awful hangover.

But the party went well, despite a lack of people I invited showing up, and the disc of music I made to play during costumed wrestling matches not playing. Costumed wrestling was fucking amazing.

While I was attempting to achieve telepathy, one of my roommates was giving me booze. Why? I don't know. It seems completely counter-intuitive. But anyway in a few hours I will wake up early and live to regret it.